SAMURAI

The Samurai (侍) was the typical military noble belonging to ancient feudal Japan. The name Samurai comes from the verb "saburau" which means "to serve" precisely to indicate the samurai as "one who serves".
Another term, dating back to the Edo period, to indicate this caste of warriors, perhaps even more so than the samurai, is the word "bushi" which literally means "warrior", a term currently used to indicate the warrior nobility.
The samurai, on the other hand, who did not need any daimyo (ancient feudal lord) because they died in battle or because they had lost the favor of their lord, were called "ronin". The samurai were a cultured caste, because in addition to martial arts, they practiced Zen arts such as cha no yu or shodo (art of calligraphy).
Over time, then, at the arrival of the Tokugawa era, the samurai lost their value and their military function by simply becoming bureaucrats of the Shogun (equivalent of the General) using their sword only for ceremonies. Finally, with the Meiji renewal, the samurai class was completely abolished to adopt a national army following the Western style. Despite this, the bushido (samurai code of honor) has survived time and is today a set of moral, behavioral, ethical and religious principles for Japanese society.
The word Samurai 侍 originates in the Heian period, when it was still pronounced "saburai" which, as already said, meant "one who serves". Then in the Edo period, "saburai" became "samurai".

However, there are some terms that can be synonymous with samurai and are used depending on several factors:

Buke: indicated one belonging to a military family.
Mononofu: is the most archaic term to indicate the "warrior"
Musha: is the abbreviation for Bugeisha and indicates "the man of martial arts"
Shi: it is the ideogram that is then read in Japanese samurai
Tsuwamono: was the archaic term to indicate the word "soldier" or in any case a brave person.
The samurai used a great variety of weapons. In the Tokugawa period it was believed that the soul of a brave samurai resided in his "katana" (sword) which was entrusted to the samurai only after he turned thirteen.
In fact, at that age the boy who belonged to the military class was given a wakizashi (traditional Japanese short sword) and an adult name, thus officially becoming a samurai. This gave them permission to always carry a sword with them; this ritual lasted until the first half of 1500 when it was completely forbidden to carry weapons.
Another weapon wielded by samurai was the bow: the Japanese bow, if wielded by a samurai, was a very powerful weapon: its size made it possible to shoot arrows with maximum precision at a distance of 100 but also 200 meters. In the 15th century, another very powerful weapon was the spear (yari) which in the hands of the infantrymen became even more effective than a katana.
Bushido is the samurai code of honor. It is a code of conduct and a set of precepts on the way and style of life. In Bushido the rules of discipline, military and moral applied by the samurai are collected: they are rules inspired by the principles of Buddhism and Confucianism then adapted to the caste of warriors. Bushido demands values ​​such as honesty, piety, loyalty, duty and honor and were to be pursued for life. Failing to comply with one of these principles, the warrior was dishonored and forced to atone for this with seppuku or better known in the West as Harakiri.

The principles of Bushido were and are seven:

義, Gi: Honesty and Justice
Be scrupulously honest in your relationship with others, believe in justice that never comes from other people except from yourself. The samurai must never be uncertain about honesty and justice.
勇, Yuu: Heroic Courage
Rise above those who are afraid to act and hide in the shell of not living. A samurai must have heroic courage which is risky and dangerous but allows one to live fully and comprehensively.

仁, Jin: Compassion
Training makes a samurai strong. The samurai must also acquire a power that must be used for the common good. Therefore, he must have compassion and never miss the opportunity to be of help to others and if he does not have the opportunity, the samurai does everything to find one.

礼, Rei: Dear Courtesy
Samurai have no reason to be cruel and don't have to prove their strength. The samurai is kind, even with his enemies and if he doesn't know how to show respect he is considered the worst of warriors. A samurai is not respected for his strength in battle but for his kindness to others.

誠, Makoto or Shin: Complete Sincerity
When a samurai wants to perform an action, it is to be considered already completed, however nothing prevents him from completing the intention of that same action. The samurai does not need to "give a word" or "promise". Talking and acting are the same thing for him.

名誉, Meiyo: Honor
There is only one judge of honor for a samurai: himself. Every action or decision is a consequence, a reflection of what one really is. You can hide from everyone but not from yourself.

忠義, Chugi: Duty and Loyalty
For the samurai, performing an action or expressing something means becoming the owner of that something or that action. He takes full responsibility for it by accepting every possible consequence. The samurai is loyal to those he protects and defends and always remains faithful to them.
The sakura (or cherry tree), today taken as a symbol of all martial arts, was in ancient times adopted by the samurai as an emblem of their belonging warrior class.

The cherry tree for the samurai represents the beauty and transience of life: in the flowering it shows a splendid show in which the samurai reflects the grandeur of his figure as a great warrior but a storm is also enough for all the flowers to fall to the ground exactly like the samurai in battle.

An ancient verse says:

Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi which means among the flowers, the cherry tree, among men, the warrior!
Incredibly, the structure of the original samurai armor hasn't changed much over the centuries. Traditional construction required hundreds of small iron or leather plates (kozane) to be tied with silk or leather ribbons. This construction was later simplified with the use of larger plates riveted to each other or still tied in silk as in the most ancient armors. The iron was often coated with lacquer to prevent rust and this use remained unchanged for six hundred years. Bamboo, contrary to what is often read, was never used for the original samurai armor, being reserved for training armor.
Feudal Japan was structured in regions controlled by a daimyō. Depending on the importance and wealth of this daimyō, there may or might not be a school of gunsmiths specific to the fief. Some types of samurai armor are therefore immediately recognizable as specific to certain areas, but most of those made in the Edo period were produced by independent shops that sold their products in the capital and were bought there by samurai from all over Japan.
Most of the samurai armor we see around date from the Edo period (1615-1867) and were never used for a fight since the last battle that was fought in samurai Japan was that of Sekigahara, in 1600.

However, among the impositions of the shogunate during the Edo period, the most important was certainly the forced residence in Edo, the sankin kotai, an ingenious invention aimed at impoverishing and at the same time controlling their own feudal lords (daimyō). This imposition in fact provided that periodically all the daimyō went to Edo - and did so with expensive and sumptuous processions (daimyō gyoretsu) - to supply the shogunate with soldiers and to leave their families there as hostages. The double residence between the capital and its own fiefdom and the social need to lead a luxurious life during the stay in Edo, therefore led to the emptying of the coffers of the various daimyō, to the benefit - among other things - of a production of samurai armor very elegant, sumptuous and extravagant. This relaxed climate of political stability in fact leads the armor to be an important symbol of social status and no longer a means of defense; for this reason, during the Edo period (1603-1867) the skill of blacksmiths moved more towards aesthetic characteristics than towards functional ones. Starting from the mid-18th century, the splendor of lacquers and colored bindings, the use of chiseled and gilded borders and ornaments on the entire armor and the continuous search for unusual decorations are the true characteristics of the armor of this period. Some gunsmiths then specialized in embossing techniques (uchidashi) producing dô, menpo and kabuto of extraordinary quality. In this period the ô-yoroi and dô-maru of the rich medieval style came back into vogue, with large sodas and complex binding that emphasized the skill of the gunsmith, and some of the most beautiful armor ever made was produced.
In the 19th century, wars are now a very distant memory and although the tendency to imitate ancient models in a luxurious key does not seem to diminish, however, the truly talented gunsmiths begin to disappear, those who were first of all masters in iron working and who knew how to build helmets and masks that were works of art.

MANEKI NEKO

If you’ve been to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, or an Asian-run supermarket or store, you’ve probably noticed a cat statue perched easily by the cash register. It is a lucky cat, called Maneki-Neko, a very popular icon among Japanese and Chinese cultures. This graceful talisman is thought to be a good luck charm and can attract prosperity, happiness and wealth for its owners. Hence, it is a very common item in shops, restaurants and other businesses run by Chinese or Japanese.
The fortune cat, known as Maneki Neko, is a term that in Japan means “the pointing cat”. Typically this cat has a raised paw as if it were indicating or calling luck for its owners. Others call the Maneki Neko the “money cat” and the “welcome cat”. Nessuno sa con precisione come è apparso il primo Maneki Neko. Tuttavia, la maggior parte dei giapponesi è d’accordo sul fatto che “il gatto della fortuna” ha avuto origine durante il periodo Edo, tra il XVII secolo e la metà del XIX secolo.
There are a couple of popular legends about the origins of the “Cat of Fortune”. One tells of a rich man who took refuge from a storm under a tree near a temple, where he noticed a cat that seemed to call him, then followed him into the temple. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck the tree, and because the cat had saved his life, the man was so grateful that he became a benefactor of the temple, bringing prosperity and wealth. When he died, a cat-shaped statue was built in his honor. Another legend tells of a geisha who had a cat. One day, while he was wearing his kimono, the cat tugged and ripped the dress. The owner of the brothel then assumed that the cat was possessed by evil spirits, and cut off its head with a sword. The cat’s head rolled onto a snake that was about to bite the girl, and its fangs killed the snake, saving the woman. The geisha was so saddened by the death of her beloved cat that one of her clients had a statue built in honor of the cat to make her happy.
In reality, the raised leg of the “fortune cat” has a meaning. If the raised paw is the left, the talisman becomes propitious for attracting new customers. If the raised paw is the right, it indicates luck, happiness and money. Precisely for this reason, sometimes, you can find lucky cats with both paws raised. Two raised paws can indicate also protection.
Although it is white, with orange and black spots, the most common color of the Maneki Neko, there can be statuettes of different colors, and each one has a special meaning. Calico: it is the preservation of the traditional colors, and considered the most fortunate White: happiness, purity and positive news that must arrive Golden: wealth and prosperity Black – wards off and chases away evil spirits Red – success in love and relationships Green – good health
The Maneki Neko is a finely dressed cat adorned with a bib, a collar and a bell. In the Edo period, it was common for rich people to dress their cats in this way; a bell was tied to the collar so that they could be identified more easily. A Maneki Neko can be adorned with other small symbols that bring good luck:
Koban: is an ancient Japanese coin from the Edo period. A ryo was considered a fortune in those days.
The magic wizard of money: if you see a small hammer, it represents wealth.
If shaken, the mallet should bring wealth and prosperity.
A fish (most likely a carp): the fish is a symbol of abundance and luck.
A gem: it is another propitiator of money.

KIMONO TIME

Japan has always fascinated me. A vision of the world so far removed from that of the West, the contrast between discreet and refined voices and feelings, against rigor and absolute respect for honor. The figure of the Geisha and the world of the Samurai.
How is the kimono made? Women’s dresses are made up of at least 15 parts, each with a name that describes it (outer, inner, over and under collar lining, sleeve hole and drape, etc.). The dressing starts from the first layer, in contact with the skin (in the demonstration the models remained dressed), to continue with different layers as the quality and uniqueness of the kimono increases. In the demonstration, the girls were swaddled with meters and meters of fabric, every time they wore a layer I thought it was the last, but the dressing still continued. Even the middle layers (linings and petticoats) are of fine fabric, with refined decorations and colors.
The kimono is the traditional Japanese dress, both for men and women. There are long lists of names that define different types of kimonos, more or less valuable, according to the use and the category of people who wore them: formal for married women, business dress, with a decorated motif (which gives the name to the type of dress), or in common fabric to go to the spa, to practice martial arts or the art of entertainment of the Geisha.
Although the kimono is a distinctly Japanese form of clothing, its roots are said to be from China. The earliest form of kimono was worn as a type of underwear, gaining popularity in Japan during the Muromachi period (1392-1573), when they began to be worn without hakama (traditional Japanese pants) and paired with a shaft called an obi. Since the Edo period (1603-1867) the kimono as we know it today has truly become part of Japanese costumes, with an ever-increasing variety of colors, fabrics and styles available. The obi has become wider and the length of the sleeves has grown. The kimono is worn by women or girls and by men

There are several elements involved when wearing a kimono. To understand a kimono, it is important to know the pieces that make it up, here are some of the main parts that make up a kimono:
Kimono – is the main garment, which can be made from a variety of materials including, cotton, linen, wool and silk.

Obi – the outermost belt tied to a kimono. The knot can be tied in a variety of decorative ways.

Juban – A type of underwear specifically used with kimonos.

Koshi-himo – the belt tied around the waist to secure the kimono in place.

Datejime – A belt attached to the kimono, but under the obi, which helps obi maintain shape.

Tabi – Socks specially designed to be worn with traditional Japanese footwear.
The foot area is divided into two sections.

Geta, Zori – These are some of the traditional types of footwear worn with kimonos. They look a bit like modern sandals.
Types of Kimono

Furisode – This is the type of kimono worn by young unmarried women and girls. It is distinguishable by the long sleeves and in bright colors. Furisode is the typical kimono worn during the Japan Age Day (‘Seijin no Hi’).

Tomesode – A formal kimono that is worn by women who are married. It can be decorated in intricate crests and patterns, however these decorations are typically found below the waist. Mothers traditionally wear a black tomesode at their child’s wedding. There are also colorful tomesodes, which are sometimes worn by single women on special occasions. ·

Houmongi – literally meaning “to dress kimono”, a houmongi is a type of kimono suitable for any age and marital status. You can identify this kimono with the patterns that run over the shoulders and bottom. This type of kimono can be worn to attend wedding or tea ceremonies.

Yukata – the type of kimono most often seen in Japanese summer festivals. Yukata are made of thin material and suitable for both women and men. However, men’s yukatas are not as colorful as those worn by women.

Komon – Another type of casual kimono. A comone is usually decorated in a repeating pattern. The comone is perfect, everyday casual, as it was the common everyday dress in the days before western clothing became standard wear.

Iromuji – A solid color kimono worn by married and unmarried women. Iromuji can be in any color with the exception of white or black, however, they are in rather muted tones. They can also be decorated with crests – the more crests there are, the more formal the kimono is. This is a simple yet sophisticated kimono.
Over the course of history the kimono has had more or less fortunate periods, remaining, however, a latent reference in patient waiting for a gust of wind or style to bring it back on the catwalks and in our wardrobes. From Poiret to Yamamoto, from Galliano to Saint Laurent, from Thom Browne to J.W. Anderson, no designer has been able to ignore its charm by proposing it, each in its own way, even in recent seasons. Despite being very current and loved by stars like Florence Welch and Beyoncé, who, still pregnant with twins, wore a Gucci one to a basketball game, this pivotal piece of Japanese costume has a very ancient history.

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